As the Princeton University field hockey team opened its season with games at Duke and Wake Forest last weekend, Tiger head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn viewed the trip as a fact-finding mission.
“It’s hard, you are never completely prepared when you have 12 days of practice and the other team has games under its belt,” said Holmes-Winn.
“We wanted to learn as much about ourselves as we could; we wanted to see how much we could stretch the opposition.”
In that learning process, the fourth-ranked Tigers ended up teaching their foes a lesson, topping No. 5 Duke 5-2 last Friday and then beating 13th-ranked Wake Forest 4-2 on Sunday.
Holmes-Winn certainly gained some positive information from the weekend. “We wanted to see how our structure would function and hold up,” said Holmes-Winn.
“We did create spaces and we generated some really good attack play. I was happy with how fluid our structure enabled us to be. We looked good physiologically; we played well in the second half of both games and showed that we have good fitness. We showed that we have a good bench, we were able to play everyone.”
The Tigers also showed some character as they battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits against Wake before pulling away to the 4-2 victory.
“These girls are so professional; they don’t get rattled,” said Holmes-Winn.
“They know what they are capable of. Going into the second half of the Wake game, we talked about having better concentration. You can have the best structure around but it doesn’t mean anything if you are not concentrating in the moment. They went out and did really well.”
Senior star striker Kat Sharkey displayed good concentration, scoring three goals in the win over Duke and then tallying all four scores in the Wake victory.
“Kat created some of her opportunities but midfield gave her room to operate,” said Holmes-Winn of Sharkey, one of four Tigers, along with Michelle Cesan and the Reinprecht sisters, Katie and Julia, who were returning to the program after taking a leave of absence last year to train with the U.S. National Team in preparation for the London Olympics.
“Her scoring was partially the product of that. On her penalty corner goals, she got direct shots and showed pinpoint accuracy.”
Princeton got some outstanding play over the weekend from the Reinprechts together with Allison Evans, Charlotte Krause, and Amanda Bird.
“Katie was just outstanding; she is just such a smart player,” asserted Holmes-Winn.
“She and Julia control the midfield and keep the things organized. They were exceptional. Allison Evans did some good running on attack. Charlotte Krause and Amanda Bird did some great things in the back.”
The trio of Sharkey and the Reinprecht sisters provide more than on-field excellence.
“The chemistry is going to be a good thing for us; we have all the pieces in place,” said Holmes-Winn.
“Kat, Katie, and Julia are our captains. It is great to see that their transition back has been seamless. They do things off the field to help bring the team together. It is a combination of factors; they have shown that they are the ones to lead the group.”
The Tigers will need that chemistry and leadership this Thursday when they face another road test with a contest at No. 9 Penn State (3-1).
“They have tons of speed; they are great at transition on both sides of the ball,” said Holmes-Winn, whose team will open its new Bedford Field by hosting Richmond on September 9.
“We can’t lose focus; we need to pick up our mental energy across 70 minutes of game. We need to be staying in the play. We need numbers around the ball to get space and time. We have to let spacing and structure do the work. We need to spread them out.”